Short on time?

Get essay writing help

Woman Social Status And Intrinsic Being In The Novels To The Lighthouse And The Life And Death Of Harriett Frean

  • Words: 1374
  • |
  • Pages: 3
  • This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

In To the Lighthouse and The Life and Death of Harriett Frean, we come across women whom their intrinsic being is commensurate to the realities they are in and the social conditioning that has influenced them. The novels published in 1927 and 1922 repectively frame women and their setting within and against different contexts yet with common traits. In the case of Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Ramsay is the conventional married woman emboding the Victorian class requirements who according to her ‘an unmarried woman has missed the best of her life’. Mrs. Ramsay is contrasted with Lily Briscoe who is the new woman, is an independent painter and is not interested in marriage. On the contrary Herriette Frean sacrifices a lot of possible routes that at first she feels that are upholidng her traditional female expectations and class expectations. The discussion will be looking into the the women character’s gender role within the boundary of Victorian self-righteuosness and the move towards embracing Modernity and will look at four areas: the oppression of women by the partriachal society, the marginalisation of women, women as sexual beings, the equality and gender issues between men and women under the auspices of Feminist theory.

Feminist theory is an approach that focuses on the way women are represented in literature. This mode of interpretation is important not only to understanding how gender affects characters in a work, but also in understanding the societal values that are reflected by the work. The novels clearly show that there was an inherent expectation of what and how the role of women should be. Women are often depicted as submissive wives, dutiful homemakers, and selfless nurturers, considered virtuous by right of beauty and dominated by emotions. Feminist theory tries to answer the question of whether a character perpetuates traditional female stereotypes, and to what extent the text supports those views.

In both novels women are oppressed by a partiarchal society represented chiefly by the father Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Frean and some other secondary characters like Charles Tansley. The society presents man who occupies the role of the self, or subject; woman is the object, the other. He is essential, absolute, and transcendent. She is inessential, incomplete, and mutilated as Simone de Beauvoir highlights. The man as a father extends out into the world to impose his will on it, whereas woman is doomed to immanence, or inwardness. He creates, acts, invents; she waits for him to save her. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.’

The category of the Other is as earliest as consciousness itself. In the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies, one finds the expression of a duality – that of the Self and the Other. This duality was not originally attached to the division of the sexes; it was not dependent upon any empirical facts.

Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty? No subject will readily volunteer to become the object, the inessential; it is not the Other who, in defining himself as the Other, establishes the One. The Other is posed as such by the One in defining himself as the One. But if the Other is not to regain the status of being the One, he must be submissive enough to accept this alien point of view.

Mrs. Ramsay soothes her husband when his ego needs attention and Harriett and her mother do not like contradicting Mr Frean. Harriett would not want to make her parents unhappy.

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

Like Negros and Jews, a historical event has resulted in the subjugation of the weaker by the stronger. The scattering of the Jews, the introduction of slavery into America, the conquests of imperialism are examples in point. In these cases the oppressed retained at least the memory of former days; they possessed in common a past, a tradition, sometimes a religion or a culture. But in the case of women on one side there is Mrs. Ramsay who is happy to be married and to be a mother, Lily Briscoe who enjoys painting and being a spinster, whilst Harriett remains a spinster because of her moral standards and her myopic approaches.

The women are ready to accept that, save for Lily, who manages to find her space in the modern transition. However, men’s perception of women retains a top-down approach, remnants of the Victorian Empire. In fact Mr. Tansley whispered in Lily’s ear that women cannot paint and cannot write (Part 1) as well as having Andrew thinking that women had not control over thair emotions (Part 1). These phrases and thoughts would today be seen as mansplaining – looking at women as being the weaker sex. There is an innate need that the man needs to establish his authority and to feel ‘it necessary to assert himself’ as Mr. Tansely felt in Part 1.

This need is intimately connected to the place the woman should keep, which is that of a domestic figure and the importance of normalising the family unit.

Although Lily Briscoe is the heroine of the novel, Mrs. Ramsay is its emotional centre. As we have seen, she can wrap the negative (male) in her own positive frame, and she can enter the middle to prevent the frame from exploding. In addition, she brings people together and creates a unity, howsoever tenuous. Given her own warm centre, others seek her out—Lily, in particular, expresses a desire for a symbiotic union with her. Mrs. Ramsay also has a more private centre to which she periodically withdraws, and she has a wish for gratification that mirrors her own way of giving. We can speak of Mrs. Ramsay as a phallic woman in that she not only gives and absorbs, but also moves directly between others.

Mrs. Ramsay’s ability to contain negativity and inter vene in the service of unity is brought out again in a scene in the children’s room. Cam and James should be asleep but they are quarreling about a skull hung on the wall belong ing to James. They are in a bind because the skull casts a shadow that frightens Cam and prevents her from going to sleep, but James refuses to sleep if the skull is removed. Mrs. Ramsay replies with ‘we will cover it up’ (p. 83). The perfect solution—the skull remains hung, but no longer casts its threatening shadow. The skull has come between James and Cam; Mrs. Ramsay then mediates the dispute and embeds the negative – Mrs. Ramsay promotes cooperation, Mr. Ramsay, divisiveness. Mrs Ramsay is linked to light and darkness even towards the end of the novel as she was the one bringin everyone together, in fact when Paul Rayles repeats the words ‘lights, light, lights’ since the lights bring symbolically the people facing each other and together, removing darkness and separation. The skull could have been a reflection on future death, war and the change as a family unit.

In the case of Harriett she was always brought up to behave ‘beautifully’ like her mother, and not even God and Jesus were not more beautiful than her mother. Her father kept himself straight and slender and had could meddle and risk in business as he felt secure for most of his life. Like Mr. Ramsay, Mr. Frean read dangerous books of Darwin or Huxley and is fascinated by their ideas and discourse. Yet his wife highlighted confidently that despite his going there in those readings, he always comes back. Harriett looks at her father in awe. She tried to read the books and was not prevented from reading them. Yet she was prevented from taking up some kind of academic or business path and in fact her role in society is never really mentioned by Sinclair. The role Harriett’s parents expected from her was that she finds a husband but it was never imposed and domesticity grew on Harriett. The nondecisive attitude of Harriett because of her over-identification with her mother and the goodness she must keep, she declines her sexual identity to abide by parental authorty not to break up the family. Yet Harriett is also a recluse who wants no one but her mother shown when she says, ‘I shall never want anybody but you’ . Hence she displaces her sexual desire for altruism.

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this Page

Woman Social Status And Intrinsic Being In The Novels To The Lighthouse And The Life And Death Of Harriett Frean. (2021, September 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from
“Woman Social Status And Intrinsic Being In The Novels To The Lighthouse And The Life And Death Of Harriett Frean.” Edubirdie, 30 Sept. 2021,
Woman Social Status And Intrinsic Being In The Novels To The Lighthouse And The Life And Death Of Harriett Frean. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
Woman Social Status And Intrinsic Being In The Novels To The Lighthouse And The Life And Death Of Harriett Frean [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 30 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. Available from:
Join 100k satisfied students
  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
hire writer

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.